Katherine England Makes Art for the Heart in Fullerton
Photo by John Gilhooley
Katherine England doesn't walk into a space--she swishes into it, usually wearing a flowing garment, her hair in an elegantly messy bun above feather earrings that blend in with her tendrils. Her murals cover more than 30 walls in the city, and her mosaic heart sculptures, which once lined Harbor Boulevard, raised thousands of dollars for art in schools. She's a crucial supporter of All the Arts For All the Kids Foundation, and you'll often find her at the heels of community leaders, pushing for more. She's Fullerton royalty.
Yet England's progressive nature blossomed far from the city she fights so fiercely for. "I'm fifth-generation Mormon," England says, "but I grew up in Stanford in the '60s, and it was a great time to be exposed to all that insanely fabulous weirdness." But it wasn't until a two-year mission trip to El Salvador during its civil war that England discovered a fixation for being shocked.
"I traveled to any non-capitalist country I could, but I had a born-again experience in Russia," she says. "I grew up during the Cold War and thought these people were evil, but they were so kind and their art was insane!"
England couldn't go back to the simple life in Utah after that; she left the Mormon church after it pushed for an anti-gay bill. After a few years in San Francisco, she moved to Fullerton for her ex-husband's work. "People from up north think SoCal people are ridiculous," she says with a smirk, "and I was telling myself, 'It's okay; you'll just be here for a little while.'"
But England never left. "When my children were born, I had to get art in their school," she says. She ended up painting murals on nearly every school campus in Fullerton. "It's crucial for children to see artwork. It removes them from their past and possibly tough home lives. But, unfortunately, my biggest mural that went across four portables was painted over--the principal thought it was too stimulating."
Slowly, the way that England looked at art and society changed. "Mormonism is all about right and wrong, and I realized there is no right and wrong when it comes to art or people," she says. "It's so much easier to enjoy things for what they are." Eventually, England opened an art studio in the garage of her home, which resembles a fairy oasis more than a house in the suburbs.
While she's known for her mosaics and murals in Fullerton, England's most notable medium for her humanist message is artist journals. "My goal is for every woman to do art journaling," she says. "It forces you to work on the right side of your brain, the only side where you can find peace." Now, multiple schools, as well as the Cal State teacher credential and master's in education programs, teach England's art journaling.
Today, the sprouting of the Magoski Art Colony in downtown Fullerton delights England, who had long planned to move back to Utah for good. Now, she's thinking a summer home will do. "OC has always wanted things to be the status quo and beige," she says. "But little by little, we're taking more risks."